No, I'm not advocating hitting the bottle to blot out all your worldly worries...
I've been fortunate enough to sample the newly available soft drinks from Lemonaid beverages. Lemonaid & ChariTea e.V. is a not-for-profit charity that is taking a very direct route to supporting community project and social enterprises in developing countries. As well as directly raising funds through sponsorship, they have launched a range of beverages all containing only organic and fairtrade ingredients. The drinks are lightly carbonated 'lemonaids' and a range of 'chariteas'.
But before supping up - let's do this backwards and look at the important bit - what they do with the money they raise. Each bottle sold gives five pence to the charity, this is added to sponsorship and other donations. Five pence a shot may not sound much, but already over £560,000 has been raised for development aid projects.
The supported projects are chosen to benefit the communities producing the ingredients that go into the products. these are the projects they highlight:
The Instituto Intercultural Ñöñho in Querétaro, Mexico receives £20,000 a year from the charity to support their work, which include training women as social entrepreneurs and tackling unemployment and social exclusion.
In South Africa only white farmers were allowed to grow rooibos ('redbush') under apartheid, so the 2001 establishment of a co-operative of black farmers in Suid Bokkeveld to grow rooibos has great symbolic significance although the farmers still face a number of challenges. The charity has financed a solar power system to supply the growing region with electricity.
The Escuela Agroecológica San Juan has around eighty pupils learning the essentials of organic agriculture. The charity supports both teacher's salaries and infrastructure improvements at the school.
In Sri Lanka young adults from both the both Singalese and Tamil communities come together to learn a wide range of vocational skills at the Diyanilla Technical Institute.
The Centreo de Apoyo a Niños y Niñas del Abasto in Paraguay is a nursery that offers support for play and learning to young children working in the Abasto wholesale vegetable market on the outskirts of Asuncion in Paraguay.
On reading about these projects my main impression is that these are existing local initiatives, rather than well--meaning projects initiatied and run by outsiders. Having managed a local charity myself I can vouch for the fact that nothing is more valuable than simple support for an organsiations everyday activities. Many funders want to pay for 'innovative new projects' or 'additionality', when very often the greatest boon to an organisation is straight-forward funding for the day to day activities their beneficiaries most benefit from.
So what about the drinks?
Slightly confusingly the 'Lemonaid' range is not lemonade... in fact it comprises three flavours of organic soft drink lime, passionfruit and blood orange! All made entirely from organic, fairtrade ingredients. All three varieties are 'lightly sparkling' rather than crammed with CO2 and they come in 330ml bottles. All three flavours are vegan.
I'm a sucker for anything with passionfuit in it and Lemonaid Passionfruit has a great, subtle taste leavened with a touch of lime and mango juice and sweetened with a little cane sugar. yes added sugar, but at 25 calories for 100ml I think they have a good balance between sweetness and sense.
Lemonaid Lime is the stand-out flavour for me, it has a real zing and a bright, fresh flavour. Containing just lime juice, cane sugar and fizzy water, it's the simplest of the lot.
Stock orangeade is not really known for its sophistication. Tango and Fanta fans will find Lemonaid Blood Orange a bit different. It still has a classic orange flavour, but it is a more subtle and complex taste, spiced up with traces of grapefruit, lemon, orange and even cherry juice. This is a drink that you can sip slowly and appreciate, rather than gulping it down.
The ChariTea range are organic 'iced teas' (i.e. with the milk missing and cold!) As a lifelong tea drinker (milky and hot please), I must admit I've never drunk iced tea before, so it was with some apprehension that I approached these bottles! Before we start, they are all in the same 330ml bottles. Sweetened with agave juice they are just 16-17 calories per 100ml so about 50 calories per bottle. The green tea contains a dollop of honey as well,but the other three types are vegan.
Charitea Green is pepped up with ginger and was probably the tea I was least nervous of, being a fan of ordinary green tea even if I don't drink it very often. I found this a light and very refreshing drink, with the ginger taste being quite restrained - it isn't a fiery ginger beer.
I expected Charitea Black to be a bit stronger, but in fact it is even 'gentler' in flavour than the green version. Personally i found it a bit too subtle, although the tea flavours are well balanced with the lemon I think it would benefit from being a little stronger, if only to match the drinker's expectations.
Two of the 'teas' are really 'tisanes' or herb teas. The now familiar Rooibos or 'Red Bush' from South Africa and Mate from South America from the herb Yerba. Both are prepared in a similar way to tea.
Charitea Mate was a new experience for me. I was surprised how 'tea-like' it tasted, in fact if this was a blindfold trial I would probably have guessed that this was Charitea Black! A robust, complex flavour like well-steeped tea and a less obvious overtone of orange. This is an interesting and pleasant drink that took me by surprise and won a Great Taste award in 2015. This is certainly the one to try if you want to experience a taste that is different without being completely unfamiliar.
Charitea Red - I must confess I am not a big fan of rooibos; I used to drink it at work, but it was always a toss up between redbush and coffee when the tea bags ran out! Caffeine and tannin-free it's really very different from a traditional cuppa. But did I say I was a sucker for passionfruit? Well Charitea Red has 5% passionfruit juice and a dash of elderberry as well, so I must confess that much to my surprise this was my favourite of all the Chariteas! There's a nice fresh passionfruit start, and a subtle finish as the complex flavours of the rooibos dominate in the after-taste. It's probably the most complex of all the drinks I sampled.
So will I keep drinking?
I most certainly will, although they are not a common sight on the supermarket shelves yet you can buy them at a dedicated online UK shop.I am sure both Lemonaid and Charitea have bright futures. Yes it's good to know that as well as being both fairtrade and organic each purchase is supporting worthwhile initiatives in developing countries, but these are products that stand up on their own. You won't be surprised that that Lemonaid Lime will be my favourite thirst quencher, but I'm surprised to find that ChariTea will be my choice for relaxing on a sunny evening.
Here's a list of places that stock Lemonaid and ChariTea:
- As Nature Intended
- Daylesford Organic
- GAIL’s Artisan Bakeries
- Planet Organic
- Rough Trade East
- Sourced Market
- Whole Foods
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